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U2 - BEST OF 1990-2000   Print  E-mail 
Written by Graham Reed  
Saturday, 16 October 2004

flashed forth in big letters when push came to shove and the world's biggest stadium rock band discovered leather pants and irony.

What they had discovered was that , they had been in fact just coasting. You see, Up until 1985, and then they came out with the Joshua tree. And Everybody loved them. And then Came Rattle & Hum, and still everybody loved them. Despite the fact that Rattle & Hum would have been better served by being TWO seperate albums (one live, one studio). And then they realised they had reached a creative dead end,. and needed to go away and dream it all up again.

So they did, with Achtung baby.Sleeky, funky as hell and quite possibly one of the finest albums ever.

You see, They used to be incredibly shit. Then they were quite good for a while in the early 90's, and then made a couple of so-so albums; the patchy POP and the U2-by-numbers "All That You can't leave behind". mix them up into a rnadom pot purri and... This is an album that makes great songs sound average and average songs sound... dull.

But all their early 90's radical reinvention meant was wrapping the songs in deliberately obtuse production to make it seem cutting edge. Since then they’ve been clawing their way back to commercial sensibility, and this second “Best of” compilation covers their so-called ‘experimental’ years. Hardly experimental by comparison to Aphex Twin though.

In this running order, the reinvention of 'Achtung Baby!' suddenly seems cynically calculated. 'Even Better Than The Real Thing' and the naff 'Mysterious Ways' seem much more conventional now than then... especially placed out of context. the so-called radical reinvention instead makes them sound like later-period INXS.

Whilst sometimes they were far better than dull stadium rock would suggest - the beautiful 'One', for example - mostly they were just an old dog with a lick of paint. But the stand out track here is 'The Fly' which gives the game away that Bono knew he was faking it all along when he sings in the closing seconds of the album …"I gotta go, I'm running out of change". Running out of change means no change, and means the same as before. Same shit, different production eh?

So what do you get? 2 CD's and a 20 minute promotional DVD. Not bad value, 'til you walk into HMV and balk at the £20 price tag. You do get 7 otherwise unavailable  new mixes and tracks, whoopdedoo - that's roughly £3 per 'new' version or song. And record companies wonder why people don't buy new CD's anymore. Like, duh! Well, the new mixes are patently inferior as a general rule, the fact of the matter being of an artist not knowing when to leave the product alone, and continuing to paint not knowing where to stop. We call it George Lucas Syndrome.

There's a bonus 14 track B-sides CD if you're quick, which will be the main bait for most fans - but mostly comprised of flaccid 12" remixes instead of actual songs. I mean, i'd rather listen to the String and Steel mix of Night and Day or the alternate take of Stay (both sadly missing), than yet another club remix of Discotheque by Paul oakenfold.  There's too many omissions on this set to call it a true 'best of' - only including 2 out of the 6 singles off 'Pop' is taking the piss, especially when the sublimely beautiful and best ever u2 song  'Lemon', 'Elevation', the achingly poignant 'Walk On' and the overlooked 'Pop Muzik' are left behind in favour of the average 'Electrical Storm' .

There's some great songs wrapped up in a load of dross and crappy remixes. When the band care so little, why should we? 4 out of 5 for the songs, 0 out of 5 for the execution. Don't start here, get the original albums first. This truly is a bit of a lemon....

Brilliant Songs. Piss poor package.


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